Minneapolis City Council candidates were asked by the Star Tribune to respond to a series of questions. Here is information about the candidates and their answers to the questionnaire.
Minneapolis Ward Six City Council Candidate Responses
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 612-870-0022
Endorsements: Independence Party, Minneapolis Plumbers Local 15, Minneapolis Pipe Fitters Local 539
Bruce A. Lundeen
Email: email@example.com or call 612 872 6578
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 612-825-2237
Endorsements: DFL; Sierra Club; ACORN MN; TakeAction MN; Service Employees International Union MN State Council; Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation; Minneapolis Building Trades; MN Nurses Association; Teamsters Local 120; Teamsters Joint Council 32 DRIVE; AFSMCE Council 5; Stonewall DFL Caucus; DFL African American Caucus; DFL Feminist Caucus
Laura Jean Phone: 612-724-2514
Email: email@example.com or call 612-481-7691
Endorsements: Minneapolis/Fifth Congressional District Green Party
(Did not respond to questionnaire)
What's one burning issue that's prompted you to run for this position (25 words)?
Tupper: The need for active and accountable representation; to support the pride and stabilization of our residences, families, neighborhoods and small businesses.
Lundeen: The actions of City Staff and the City Council differ from the views of a majority of residents. Ordinances often fail to support citizen wishes.
Lilligren: I want to keep the core city populations from bearing the brunt of budget cuts so we can keep building on our successes here.
Jean: Ward 6 has some of the city's highest rates of poverty. We need a representative that makes ending poverty in our community a top priority.
Exley: Favoritism of large, national chains over small, locally-owned businesses. Competition is good, but government shouldn't bend over backwards to support international corporations.
Since 2003, the city has increased the amount of taxes it levies on property by 8 percent annually. Do you favor continuing this policy, or do you favor a lower or higher amount of property tax increase? What specific increase would you support, and what budget adjustments would you make in light of your choice? (100 words)
Tupper: I am in favor of property tax management that is consistent with individual and business growth rates versus the crippling increases of recent history. I support growing the tax BASE versus the tax RATE; small business growth and development, quality neighborhoods that attract home ownership and investment in property versus outrageous tax increases and irresponsible spending.
Lundeen: Annual arbitrary increases in property tax levies are inappropriate and property taxes already excessive in many cases. I think most property owners consider the amount of money collected in all forms of taxes excessive and wonder just how all of that money is spent. It seems to me that the City has gone too far beyond providing basic services - Police, Fire, and Public Works - and has become involved in oversight not within reasonable expectations of City government. Perhaps the City has too generous pension obligations, and health care costs are affecting all employers. Minneapolis's financial obligations have become excessive.
Lilligren: Setting the 8% property tax cap and the five year budget direction were two of the most important budget decisions made during my time on the council. These policies helped make stronger and safer in very lean times. We are in an era of significant loss in property value, stock market losses and rising City obligations - all of which affect our ability to deliver services. For me it is too early to commit to a percentage of property tax increase. I am committed to a long-term budget policy that balances need and the taxpayer's ability to bear the burden.
Jean: I favor having the city council lobby the legislature to return the property tax rates to what they were prior to 2001 to shift the burden away from homeowners. Any other changes to our tax system we consider should focus on making taxes more progressive. I also favor providing property tax breaks for seniors on fixed incomes, and low income families.
Exley: I would like to see the property taxes raised less, and eventually stop increasing. To do this, the city will need to make cuts and it should start by halving the $75,000 a year city council salary. This is much more than the council needs to make. Unfortunately, that won't make a big enough dent in the city's budget shortfall, so other cuts will have to be made. As nearly every organization's largest expense is staff, it is more than likely that's where the city will have to look.
With state aid declining and property taxes rising, should the city diversify the taxes and fees through which it derives income? If so how? (100 words)
Tupper: The city needs more fiscal responsibility and effort towards efficiencies and cost savings. Instead of inventing new taxes or redefining a tax as a fee, we need to optimize the resources currently at our disposal and cut out the waste. Simply, we need to live within our budget and encourage our departments and leadership to seek cost savings. Changing the mindset and approach to budgeting from "wants" to a "needs", activity based approach is the first step.
Lundeen: It is possible that the present decline of State revenues may continue. The ability of the private sector to bear the cost of government by way of increased taxes may not be possible. Fees collected by government are transferred directly to customers in the form of higher charges, and the mechanisms that City government administers fees leads to service provider exclusiveness and limits competition. Establishing fees for basic services that were previously paid for by taxes are very distasteful. The solution is recognizing there are limited resources and money, and thinking in terms of sustainability.
Lilligren: I think we should explore additional revenue sources for the City of Minneapolis. We need to continue to aggressively seek any and all federal dollars; both directly allocated and, more importantly, competitive grants. We need to work with our Governor and State Legislature to return as aid a more equitable share of what Minneapolis contributes to the state's tax base. We may want to ask the state to empower Minneapolis to create city-specific taxes - like a public safety sales tax in revenue producing districts. I would not support regressive taxes or fees that are born disproportionately by lower income communities.
Jean: The legislature must explore diversifying taxes. The city and state should work together to make taxes and fees fair by focusing on progressive taxes. When regressive taxes and fees continue to increase too many of our families and seniors struggle to be able to stay in their homes and afford their basic necessities.
Exley: The city should look into other ways to get income, since property tax increases are getting to be extreme, and they have the adverse effect of sometimes punishing property owners for improving their properties. One example that has been suggested in ward 6 is to try switching to a permit-based street parking system. This could raise some income through permit purchases and parking tickets. This won't be a silver bullet, but I'm open to other options.
The council is considering how to use the property taxes from its older development districts. This tax increment by law may only be used to pay for Target Center debt and for neighborhood revitalization, or alternately, the tax base in these districts can be returned to the general tax base. What percentage would you allocate to each of these three purposes? (100 words)
Tupper: Giving up TIF districts is not a wise idea for the city. Unlike the school district, the city relies on local taxes for a much larger share of its revenue. Giving up TIF districts altogether would result in tens of millions of dollars transferred from the City to the schools over a ten year period. A better solution would be to use the redevelopment money to rebuild sidewalks, streetlights and streets, plant new trees and improve infrastructure. Let's let neighborhood organizations prioritize infrastructure improvements and take the pressure off of the general fund.
Lundeen: I am not prepared to say what percentage of property tax revenue I would allocate to each of these three purposes, nor am I able to comment importance of the Target Center or the Convention Center to the City relative to other financial obligations. Understanding these matters will take time and experience. Neighborhood revitalization, including community engagement, is important and deserves adequate funding. However, individual neighborhood groups must meet specific objectives of financial integrity, inclusiveness, and emergency preparedness. Previous obligations will have to be met; it may be necessary to return this property tax money to the general fund.
Lilligren: As we decide what extent to reauthorize these older TI districts we need to consider the balance of Target Center debt, the future levy (reauthorize too many districts and property taxes increase well into double digits in 2011), and other budget pressures like increasing medical and pension obligations. It is too early in our budget debate for me to commit to a percentage of districts to reauthorize. I commit to prioritizing neighborhood funding - especially discretionary dollars. We need neighborhood organizations strong because City Hall will rely even more heavily on them as partners in these challenging times.
Jean: NRP is the best example of what we can accomplish when we set our minds and budgets to it. Despite unanticipated cuts to the program along the way, NRP is a world renowned success of democracy at its best. We cannot stop now; fully funding the changing NRP is in the best interests of our city. It is unfortunate that the city has acquired the debt of the Target Center, but I don't think taking money away from our communities is the best way to pay off this burden.
Exley: Despite making foolish decisions in the past, the city should pay off its debt according to its agreement with the Target Center. Whatever is left over can and should be used for neighborhood revitalization projects. The idea of neighborhood revitalization is that we have a program to put money in the hands of local neighborhood groups, because they know the best way to spend that money to help their community. If programs like this work, then we should continue putting that money into those programs.
Council members may collect up to $400 monthly as a car allowance. Would you do so or collect a lesser monthly allowance (how much?) or collect only per-mile payments for actual miles driven? Explain your choice. (50 words)
Tupper: No. Council members are fairly compensated - similar private sector jobs do not provide such allowances.
Lundeen: With the Councilmember's annual salary of about $70,000 per year, I believe the Councilmember's pay is sufficient money to pay for local employment-related transportation. I am sure most Council members travel costs associated representing constituents is minimal. I would not collect a monthly allowance or a per-mile reimbursement.
Lilligren: I do not claim the car allowance now and will not in the future. I mostly walk, bike and bus. Since my ward is the smallest geographically, I don't need to drive very much.
Jean: I would record the mileage and might seek reimbursement. I would not be comfortable using tax payers' money for a car allowance in these economically challenging times.
Exley: I would not collect the car allowance, as I don't own a car and don't plan to get one.
What are three specific things that you'd like to accomplish in your ward by the end of your four-year term? (50 words)
Tupper: My key areas of focus include: Property tax stabilization through budget management and cost controls, quality neighborhoods through investment in private property without the disincentive of increased taxes and keeping the independent boards - Park Board and Board of Estimation and Taxation - independent to ensure balance in decision making and leadership.
Lundeen: Height and density limitations on new residential construction projects. I would encourage other neighborhoods and communities to recognize group homes are good neighbors and to accept them into their neighborhoods, and try to identify alternative uses for the formerly extravagant and grand houses group homes occupy. Open up Nicollet Avenue.
Lilligren: 1. Reopen Nicollet at Lake Street. 2. Increase investment in alternative energy generation and smart grid technology in my ward. 3. Build Midtown Greenway streetcar as one of our first lines.
Jean: I am determined to reduce poverty. To accomplish this I want to create living wage jobs in the community. We also need to reduce livability crimes that continue to affect public perception and make residents feel unsafe.
Exley: I would like to see a decrease in unemployment, an increase in small businesses, and property taxes held to a level where we will stop running residents out of the neighborhood.
What's one specific city-wide accomplishment you'd like to make happen by the end of your term? (25 words)
Tupper: To support and grow small businesses across Minneapolis by reducing the tax burden they currently bare.
Lundeen: Create a more favorable business environment for manufacturing. Industrial employment brings wealth to the community and makes good jobs for people who want to work.
Lilligren: To address disparities by increasing minority and women workforce and contractor goals for jobs within in the city, and with our development and contracting partners.
Jean: Investing in new industry to create sustainable living wage and union jobs.
Exley: I would like to pass an ordinance that provides concrete protections for tenants whose landlords have been foreclosed upon